In the New Testament church, instruction in God’s word is a part of worship assemblies. That means reading the Bible (1 Thessalonians 5:27) and preaching it (Acts 20:7). Let’s review some things it says about preaching.
2 Timothy 4:2 sums up the preacher’s task: “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.”
Preach the gospel, not man’s wisdom (1 Corinthians 1-2). Preach it exactly as written, using the Spirit’s thoughts and words (1 Corinthians 2:13). Preach it all, “the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27), withholding nothing profitable (v. 20), balancing doctrinal and practical lessons. Preach it so as to please God, not men (Galatians 1:6-10). Preach it so as to glorify Christ, not yourself (2 Corinthians 4:5). Preach it in a straightforward way, not craftily or watering it down (2 Corinthians 4:1-5), or in cleverness of speech which detracts from it (1 Corinthians 1:17). Preach it in love (Ephesians 4:15). Preach it on the level of the hearers (1 Corinthians 3:2), in a way that is relevant to their lives (Titus 2:1-10). Preach it without becoming contentious (2 Timothy 2:14-16). Preach it over and over again (2 Peter 1:12-15). And keep on preaching it, regardless of how it is received (2 Timothy 4:1-5).
Clearly, the preacher has work to do, work that requires considerable study (2 Timothy 2:15). But he is not the only one. Good listening is work too.
Jesus said to listen carefully (Luke 8:18). That requires concentration. It calls for minimizing distractions, both real and potential.
Cornelius and his household listened openly, ready to hear whatever the Lord’s instructions were (Acts 10:33). Peter described it as listening longingly, as a newborn baby longs for milk (1 Peter 2:1-3).
James 1:19-21 adds three more components of proper listening to preaching: 1) listen patiently, not reacting angrily to truth that hurts; 2) listen humbly, realizing that this is God’s word; 3) listen honestly and thoughtfully, taking the word to heart.
Over and over, Bible writers urge us to listen judiciously. Do not just accept whatever is said. Some preachers don’t know what they are talking about! (1 Timothy 1:7). Open your Bible. Check it out (Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:1).
There is one more essential: put into practice what you learn. Right away. “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James. 1:22).